WASHINGTON — Forty years after the U.S. Supreme Court established guidelines for saying profanities over the airwaves, broadcasters are dealing with a new challenge that has very little precedent: How to treat such utterances when they come from the president of the United States.
In 1978, the court ruled in the infamous “seven dirty words” case after the FCC issued a fine against a radio station that aired the George Carlin sketch. While in some ways, the court’s decision established indecency guidelines, it also opened the door for an evolution of sorts for how radio and television broadcasters—who are bound by FCC rules—handle such incidents.
President Trump’s recent alleged use of the word “shithole” during a White House meeting with senators forced news organizations to decide whether or not to repeat the profanity during news reports. The approaches were varied and nuanced.